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Alive 6

    We ask Whatever Happened to the Tramiels?

For  a  long time,  they were the 'first family of Atari',  the people whose
decisions  could  mean life or death  for the company.  There  was Jack, the
scary-arsed patriarch and feuding founder of Commodore Business Machines, he
only  came in a late fashion  to the  ailing Warner controlled Atari Corp in
the  mid-1980's, and then commenced turning it upside down.

The intention may well have been to provide a safe tenure for his sons  Sam,
Leonard  and  Gary (the Tramiel they hid in a cupboard?) Sam took  over  the
presidency,  and  was  the best known of them after Jack,  Leonard and  Gary
pootled  around within the company.  Most people would judge them as failing
to  follow  successfully  in  their fathers  footsteps,  maybe  the  Tramiel
business model was not really suited to long-term survival?  Anyway,  we all
know what happened in the end.  The Tramiel clan sold out and got out of the
computer  and  video  games business,  and seemed to quickly melt  into  the
mists, perhaps never to be seen again?

A  curious  relief  fell  over the Atari community,  whatever happened next,
whether  we  were  dependent for future  hardware development on long-haired
French guys called  Rodolphe  who specialise in acute lateness and excellent
build  quality or what,  at least  we wouldn't have to go through all *that*

Now  the  issue of what the Tramiel family are doing now  has  never  arisen
since.  It really seems that "out of sight is out of mind"? But the question
emerged,  like  a long slumbering sea beast roused from the - ok you get the
picture!  when  R.J.Michal,  one  of the grand old men who helped create the
Amiga, spoke  at the  third  Alternative Party in  Helsinki January 2002.  I
was  there!  You  may have read my report on it (Not only in Alive issue  4, 
but now also available in the archive at the official Alt Party website!)

Among  other  things,  the unbidden question emerged from somewhere  in  the
crowd "Is Jack Tramiel still alive?" To which he answered,  yes he was,  but
not really elaborating further,  saying the Tramiel family preferred to keep
a  low profile these days.  Maybe there were too many painful memories  from
his dealings with them, for R.J. to want to elaborate further?

Now in this lull period before the reviewing team on Alive! is swept away by
the  hurricane blast of new releases (said lull period known as  "2002"!)  I
decided  on  a little bit of research,  to see what the Tramiel  family  are
actually  up  to  these  days.  At  least  from  an  armchair  web  browsing
perspective.  It  turned  out there was a bit of information,  buried in the
vast  mudpile  of historical sites,  in several languages,  dedicated to the
past  glory  and  mistakes  of the Tramiels (in  both  Commodore  and  Atari

Firstly, a little bit about Jack, the man who started it all...

This  log  entry  is  fresh from the  'Commodore  People'  site,  containing
information  on people crucial to the prolonged success of the Commodore  64
computer  in  particular.  Jack Tramiel came top of a list peopled by  other
notables  including  Chuck  Peddle,  designer  of the  6502,  and  even  Rob
"loadsatunes" Hubbard.

   Jack Tramiel - The Founder 
Driving  Force  behind  Commodore  Business Machines.

Founder  of  Commodore Business Machines (created from a  typewriter  Repair 
Shop)   and  the  driving  force  behind  Commodore's  victory  over   Texas 
Instruments in the Home Computer Wars of 1982-83.

Quit his position at Commodore in January 1984 when Irving Gould, a Canadian 
financier whom Tramiel was in debt to,  returned only 10% of Tramiel's stock 
in Commodore when Jack turned the company around and had it making millions.

Tramiel then bought Atari from Warner Communications for next to nothing and 
turned it into a profitable company for a few years,  before it was absorbed 
by  a disk drive company in the early 1990s and disappeared  forever.  Known 
for his saying:  "Business is War"! There's some more info in the History of 

TODAY:  Retired in Simi Valley, California. Supervising his sons running the 
company called: Jugi Tandon Systems.

To  furthermore  confirm  that Jack is indeed "alive"  (well  done  Felice!)
Here's an extract from the Jewish society at Stanford University, confirming
his  appearance  as  the guest of honour at  an  "Emerging  Leader  Dinner".
Presumably,  the  Jewish Holocaust surviving part of his heritage was  given
greater emphasis here?

Events from 2001-2002 Included:
Sponsored by Hillel at Stanford - Emerging Leaders Dinners

Each  month,  graduate  students have the opportunity to have dinner with  a 
prominent business or political leader to learn about the speaker's life and 
work.  Space  is  limited.  For  more information and  reservations,  please 
contact Adina.

Jack Tramiel Holocaust Survivor and Founder, Commodore Int'l. Dinner

Emerging Leaders  Dinners provide graduate students with the opportunity  to 
hear  from  and interact with accomplished community and  business  leaders. 
Students and the featured guest enjoy dinner and conversation together,  and 
students  have the opportunity to learn about the featured guest's life  and 
work. Dinners are free of charge. We are pleased to announce the next event, 
featuring: Jack Tramiel Holocaust  Survivor and Founder of Commodore  Int'l. 

Hillel at Stanford
Last Updated: June 5, 2002

Okay,  time  to  dig in and find out about the rest of the gang,  what about
Sam? Surely he's working these days, but who would give him a job now?

A  big  hand to Conxion,  who have landed Sam on their board  of  directors!
here's a little bit from their website telling you what they are about.

Conxion Backgrounder

The  result is Conxion,  a lean,  efficient organization built from retained 
earnings  and with a history of profitability.  We are building an  enduring 
company that customers can rely on for the long haul. Our mission is to turn 
the  power  of  our network,  datacenters and managed  hosting  skills  into 
business solutions that yield business benefits. We do it with a passion for 
performance that produces incredible results.

We've  already  staked  our claim as the Net's  premiere  host  for  massive 
downloads  and million-hit websites.  When Microsoft offers new versions  of 
Internet Explorer or NT Service Packs, millions of users move immediately to 
download the often massive files, and the process goes off without a hitch.

Our  long-term  goal is to help e-business reach its full  potential.  We'll 
keep  building our network and our organization,  because we want to  create 
something  that  lasts.  When  your business is ready for  the  Internetwork 
Delivery System, we'll be here. 

Enough!!! No more!

And here it is, Sam the man, with a bit of extra information thrown in about
some of his other business activities and his past life. Nice of them!

Board of Directors - Sam Tramiel

Mr. Tramiel is the former CEO of Atari Corporation. He has over twenty-eight 
years of experience in various aspects of high technology companies in  both 
domestic and international markets. (Ruining them, then cutting and running
perhaps?! - Not at all embittered Ed note.)

He is currently a principal of Tramiel Capital,  Inc.,  which specializes in 
real  estate  and investments.  During the period from 1972 to 1984 he  held 
various  positions at Commodore International,  Ltd.,  one of the pioneering 
companies in the development and marketing of some of the earliest  personal 
computers.  Mr.  Tramiel  has  been  a member of the Board of  Directors  of 
Conxion Corporation since February 1999.

The  other Tramiels,  Leonard and Gary,  tended to keep a lower profile than
eldest  sibling  Sam.  The  same goes for their internet presence,  with  no
current  entries for Gary out there,  and he's not a particularly dominating
presence even in the copious historical record.  However, I did strike lucky
with  Leonard,  who seems to have withdrawn from the computer industry  into
wealthy   semi-retirement,   punctuated   by  bouts  of   concerned   social
improvement, as the following web extract now reveals.

The Great American Textbook Scandal
October 30, 2000
Forbes Magazine
By David McClintick 

ONE DAY IN MARCH OF last year Leonard Tramiel,a balding,  dark-bearded man 
of  45,  sat  alone  in  a science classroom  in  Milpitas,  a  middle-class 
community  on the south end of San Francisco Bay.  Having earned a Ph.D.  in 
physics from Columbia University and having made a bundle in Silicon Valley, 
Tramiel now taught occasionally around the Bay Area as a volunteer.

Savoring  a  few  quiet moments before 30 eighth  graders  surged  into  the 
classroom,   Tramiel  opened  their  astronomy  textbook,   Prentice  Hall's 
Exploring The Universe,  to the lesson for the day. Tramiel was surprised to 
see  that Prentice Hall had inadvertently reversed two photographic  images, 
giving  a misleading impression of how the moon looks as it  passes  through 
its phases. Tramiel turned back a page.

The book said that the moon probably had been born when a giant asteroid had 
struck the earth,  tearing a chunk of material from the planet, and that the 
Pacific Ocean may be the hole left behind.  What was this doing in a science 
textbook? The asteroid theory hadn't been taken seriously for over 30 years. 
Tramiel turned back another page and read that the far, or dark, side of the 
moon  had been photographed for the first time by the Lunar Orbiter,  a U.S. 
space  probe.  He  knew  for a fact that the Soviets had taken  those  first 

Three errors in three pages.  At home that night,  Tramiel read the textbook 
cover  to  cover and found dozens of errors of fact,  of interpretation,  of 

Tramiel  called Prentice Hall's 800 number.  An operator said someone  would 
get  back  to  him.  Nobody  did.  Calling again three days  later,  Tramiel 
insisted  on staying on the line until someone helped.  A woman  identifying 
herself  as one of the editors of the series came on to assure him that  the 
errors  had  been corrected in a subsequent edition.  Tramiel  obtained  the 
later edition and found only three of the dozens of errors he had found  had 
been fixed.

His interest in textbooks now fully aroused, Tramiel examined a new Prentice 
Hall  book  used  by his older son's private middle  school  in  Palo  Alto. 
According to the title page,  Science Explorer Astronomy had been written by 
Jay M.  Pasachoff, a professor of astronomy at Williams College whom Leonard 
Tramiel knew to be a renowned scientist. 

But  the book contained such idiocies as references to a "history book  from 
around  800  B.C.," when books did not exist,  and to the  "rotating"of  the 
earth  around  the sun,  when every schoolboy is supposed to know  that  the 
earth  rotates on its axis but revolves around the sun.  Tramiel checked  in 
with Pasachoff and was not surprised to hear how the errors got in the book-
-in the editing process, after the book left Pasachoff's hands.

Go on Leonard, get those idiots! Hit them, kill them, smother them with your

So  there  you have it,  the Tramiels rediscovered,  and out of harms way at
last.  Next time? Alastair Bodin, head of software development for Atari UK,
has he burnt in hell yet!!

CiH, for Alive! Mag,powered by web extracts, August '02....

Alive 6